We are all seeking one thing.
But I am not talking about those fleeting moments of happiness that we all have but a foundation and sense of well being that transcends momentary joy.
We know when we feel those joyful moments.
A completed task.
Experiencing a beautiful sunrise.
A goal achieved.
Having your work affirmed.
A time spent with friends connecting and laughing.
But joy can be fleeting.
But for many once that fleeting moment is past, familiar feelings of dread show up.
Reality creeps in.
Often it turns up as we awake. In darkness.
Fears both real and imagined knock on our front door. Debilitating and demotivating.
Fears about money, relationships and life that challenge our security.
George Harrison sums up what many of us have felt as we move through life in those dark moments in his song “Beware of Darkness”
“Watch out now, take care.
Beware of the thoughts that linger.
Winding up inside your head.
The hopelessness around you.
In the dead of night”
But how do reduce those dark thoughts that linger that show up just before dawn on awakening?
Is it a series of life habits?
What we all need and crave is to create a life that takes joyful moments and stitches it together into a life of fulfilment.
Building a life that flourishes despite the pain and sorrow that inevitably appear. That sustains us with an inner sense of well being. A foundation so strong that it will support us when times get tough.
How do you achieve that?
It is an ecosystem and process that becomes a series of habits.
It is a big project and it is the work of a lifetime.
The “well being” model
Martin Seligman in his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being he outlines the PERMA model as a scientifically based model of well being.
It is one of the best approaches I have seen about creating a life that is about innate and sustainable well being and success.
He is commonly known as the father of positive psychology. The model is based upon 5 pillars and distilled into the acronym “PERMA”.
- Postive emotions – Feeling good
- Engagement – Finding flow
- Relationships – Authentic connections
- Meaning – Purposeful existence
- Achievement – A sense of accomplishment
The big question is how do you nourish each step?
What activities are needed to have that foundational feeling of well being?
To arrive at flourishing.
1. Positive emotion
The big question here is how do you “manufacture” positive emotions. Is that possible?
The nature and nurture challenge is that many of us are born somewhere on the spectrum of innate pessimism and its opposite, optimism.
Can you learn optimism?
12 Years ago when confronted with a series of life changing experiences that threatened my world as I knew it, I stumbled upon a book “The Power of Now” by Eckart Tolle.
It’s simple premise?
“The past has gone and it is what it is, The future hasn’t happened and doesn’t exist. All you have is now. And what’s wrong with this moment”
This thought process alone made a significant impact on my life, beliefs and attitudes. But I had to learn new beliefs and create new ways of thinking.
The darkness of internal chatter
But for all of us there is a monster in the room. It sits on our shoulder. Whispering.
It’s our consciousness.
We need to develop the habit of banishing it to being the uninvited enemy.
This a Wolf in sheeps clothing.
Maybe the word thinking as owned and being “you” is overrated
We are the listener.
Not the thinker.
We need to label this chatter and conversation for what it is.
As the uninvited guest.
The evil uncle, who if they showed up and stayed for a visit you would send them on their way.
We need to label this debilitating visitor for what they are.
Learned optimism habits
Another simple daily habit is to be grateful. Write down every day three things that you are grateful for.
But according to Seligman when we encounter adversity we react by thinking about it.
These then become beliefs and even habits.
And these can be the difference between dejection and giving up versus sustainable well being and constructive action.
How do you stop certain types of beliefs setting off the “giving up” response?
How do you interrupt this vicious circle? Here are his suggested steps to interrupt the internal negative and pessimistic chatter.
Step 1: See the connection between adversity, belief and consequence.
Step 2: See how the ABC’s operate everyday in your life. These are Adversity, Beliefs and Consequence.
Adversity: Someone zips into your parking space that you had your eye on.
Belief: You think “How rude!” They have trespassed on what you thought was your space.
Consequence: You get angry, roll down your window, and shout at the other driver.
Take a note through your day and record the ABC’s.
A: Record the incident – this is the just the recording of the incident and the facts.
B: Then record your beliefs and this is how you interpret the adversity – what are your thoughts at the time. Eg: I just blew my diet and I feel incompetent are beliefs.
C: Then record the your feelings and what you did. Did you feel sad, guilty or anxious? Write them down and also what did you then do?
This is about creating powerful reflective awareness. This then provides a reference for change.
We all have experienced those moments where time just stops. It maybe for hours or it maybe just for a few brief minutes.
This is what we call “flow” which can be described as intense engagement.
One of the best books I have ever read about this is “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi.
In his investigations of “optimal experience” he revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.
Your mission in life is to find what type of activity provides and nourishes deep engagement.
Despite modern society selling us the lie that “more stuff” means more happiness the truth lies somewhere else.
Connectedness and community are also at the core of true happiness.
And this is what science has revealed.
In 1938 at Harvard College they tracked the lives of 724 men. And every year they asked about their work, home lives and their health.
It is the world’s longest study in happiness.
And the clearest message that we get from this 75-year research is this:
“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier“.
Quality connections are by far the biggest contributor to a state of well being.
The three big takeaways from the study?
Loneliness kills, quality relationships matter and they protect our brains and bodies.
The hedonism of modern society is all about focusing on you. Your pleasure.
The place where we need to arrive at and sustain is one where life has meaning beyond yourself. Contributing to making the world a better place. Making a difference.
The Russian novelist, Vladimir Nabokov, talks about life being a “crack of light between two pools of darkness” – the darkness before we were born, and the darkness after we die”.
But the darkness that sits in almost everyone’s soul is the fear of death. The second pool.
And it’s this sense of dread can tear at the fabric of well being. Especially when our security is threatened. That can happen we experience loss. And it will.
“Death does itch. It itches all the time” – Yalom.
So how do we transcend our mortality?
How do we stare it in the face and laugh at its demons.
Irvin Yalom’s is professor emeritus of psychiatry at Stanford University, has a theory that our only hope of immortality lies in “our ability to generate feelings and memories in those we encounter every day”
He calls it the ripple effect. Here are two ways he sees it operating.
- Our children can ripple us into the future. They offer us a promise of living beyond our normal life span. Our contribution for the future.
- The friends we meet and interact with leave a ripple that transcends time as we change their lives by what we share.
But what we create also leaves a ripple effect.
And the digital world and the World Wide Web allow us to ripple further and faster.
Ideas are one thing but sharing your creation to the waiting world is where the magic starts, happens and continues.
The reality in this digital age is that your published ideas and creations online will exist until the Internet is disconnected and/or the electricity is switched off.
But I am not talking about sharing cat videos. It is meaningful creations that sit in the place of “Deep Work”. It is producing content of consequence.
It is the concept that we bring meaning to our lives by knowing you are making a difference that transcends our mortality.
I create, I publish, I flourish.
Achievement sounds like you have arrived. That your work is done.
I would prefer the variation…”achieving”.
Sustainable “Well Being” should be a continuum that doesn’t stop, that flows into the future. Continuing a life journey that continues to produce and gives to humanity.
We need to keep giving our to the world. It should be about continuing to create, publishing and sharing your creation.
But there is another benefit that achieving in even small ways that is motivating and produces a feeling and a glow of success.
It doesn’t have to be large. You do not have to appear on television or be feted by the paparazzi.
It is the small pats on the back online, the affirmation that what you has shared matters. Moments of “micro validations”.
The social web has provided those moments when people interact online and validate your revelations.
These are the ubiquitous “likes”, affirming comments and even the growth of social network followers.
These small endorsements and recognition can be addictive but they indeed affirming.
That is what has made the social web so compelling and even sometimes obsessive.
The challenge here is that many people are afraid to be judged so they don’t share their gifts. They don’t think they are good enough.
They are unwilling to be vulnerable. But there is power in vulnerability.
It is raw, real and authentic and people are attracted to that.
What about you?
Are you able to take those moments of joy and glue them together to a create a flourishing life. To experience well being.
What works for you?
Are you creating ripples?